Liam was jailed in the basement of Jedburgh Castle to await his execution by guillotine. He had been the housefather of Bethany Orphanage, and he was innocent of the crimes charged. He had no alibi witnesses. The reigning noble did not believe his defense.
The guillotine would be quick and his suffering minimal. For that, Liam was thankful. But he wanted to live. Why should he die for a crime he did not commit?
A grey man with a hollow yellow face snuck into the castle jail. He believed Liam’s story of innocence. He wanted to help. “On the day of your execution,” the man said, “I will release your ankle stocks, and loosen the wooden lunette around your neck.” Liam smiled.
“They call me the Guillotine Grabber, and I am quick,” the man continued. “To catch
them off guard and buy you a few extra seconds to escape, I will grab the guillotine as it falls, like this,” he said while holding his hands pressed together as if in prayer. “Then, you may flee.”
Guillotine Grabber explained that in return Liam would pay him a large sum. But Liam did not have the money. Guillotine Grabber suggested he find a way to take it from the orphanage to pay the grabbing fee.
Liam thought about the proposal for the night. His brother visited him the next day. Liam came up with a plan. His brother would steal the money from the orphanage to pay Guillotine Grabber. Following the escape, Liam would work in disguise in a faraway town and pay the money back over time. After all, he thought, the children have everything they need.
Liam instructed his brother on how to sneak into the orphanage. Liam told him that the money could be found in the back office where he used to work. Liam’s brother carried out the plan. He paid Guillotine Grabber in a cobblestone alley under an eerie blood-red sky.
On the day of the execution, Liam’s body was prepared for purification. They marched
him to the guillotine and strapped him to the execution planks.
Liam looked to his side and peered to the crowd. Guillotine Grabber snuck under the
platform and released the ankle stocks just enough for Liam to slide his feet out while still giving the appearance of restraint. But then he retreated to the crowd.
Liam’s eyes filled with tears. Guillotine Grabber had not loosened the lunette and he was nowhere near the blade that was about to fall. He just stood at the front of the crowd, watching, waiting in anticipation.
The executioner read Liam his rights of purification, and prepared for the release. Liam looked to Guillotine Grabber, and whispered, “Why? I thought you would save me.”
Guillotine Grabber smiled and simply said, “Guilty.” He turned and walked away, his
trident tail slithering into the crowd as the guillotine fell.
Michael Carter ghostwrites in the legal profession. He writes short fiction in an attempt to clear his mind of his disturbing criminal cases, but the stories usually end up disturbing themselves. When not writing, he enjoys fishing, cast iron cooking, and India pale ales. He’s online at http://www.michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter.